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Opinions of Sunday, 8 December 2013

Columnist: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Pirated Textiles : Stop harassing the market women; find real causes.

Government’s order for the immediate suspension of activities of anti piracy task force in our markets is a step in the right direction. The action would bring relief to the hard-working market women among the lot who until the government took the important action lived in fear.

Most of them during this month of December consider themselves as just trading in goods they bought with their hard cash some of which are loans from banks or family members. The three month moratorium given the traders before action will be resumed to arrest those dealing in pirated textiles is not enough. It must be extended for government to be able to evaluate the work of the taskforce and find out whether or not smuggling persist due to cheaper textile imports on our markets or otherwise. Government could then find antidotes to it. During this period, the government through the evaluators could also get to know where and how the pirated goods are produced and how they are smuggled without being found out by the custom personnel at our borders. The activities of the pirates that include stealing of original logos of textile producers have affected the production of textiles locally. We are told that the previous staff strength of 30,00 in the textile industry has reduced to mere 3,000. However during the period of the moratorium the true reason for this situation would be found out. Perhaps our market mammies are only used by the big guns in the textile trade.

The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Nii Lantey Vanderpuije, was the person who announced the suspension of activities of the task force when he met with the textile retailers at the Makola Market.

Earlier, during an interaction with President John Mahama and the Minister of Gender and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, the Greater Accra Regional Market Queen, Madam Mercy Needjan, appealed to the President to intervene in the seizure of their textiles, since the traders were losing their livelihood.

Consequently, the President announced the immediate suspension of the work of the task force and gave the traders a three-month moratorium to learn to decipher between the pirated textiles and the genuine ones

The Anti-Piracy Textile Task Force established by the Ministry of Trade and Industry has been operating against the sale of pirated textiles on the Ghanaian market for some time now. As part of their mandate the task force on seizing the goods has been setting them on fire as a means of discouraging the smuggling of pirated textiles into our markets for sale. Many people are against this method of checking smuggling of clothes. Most people expected the task force to have used other methods of curtailing smuggling of the pirated goods on our markets. Members of the task force insisted that that is the only internationally acceptable means of checking the piracy on our markets.

However, after seizing thousands of bales of clothes at the Makola and other markets, especially the 1,035 bales at the 31st December market; the market mommies clashed with members of the 17-member task force in the Central Business District (CBD) in Accra this week.

This was followed by the closure of the market. The leaders of the market then lodged a protest on this with the government through the Ministry of Gender Women and Social Protection. They feel the task force has been harassing them for no crime committed.

In all that is happening. the market women and all those concerned must give thanks to the authorities especially the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Gender Women and Social Protection for their roles intervened to rectify the situation that had led to discomfort to the market mammies dealing in textiles. Nii Lantey Vanderpuije Deputy Minister of Trade and Nana Oye Lithur Minister of Gender and Social Protection have proved to be sympathetic to the market women perhaps because of their closeness to them and their callings as ministers of state